Military Sexual Assault Victims: Know Your Rights

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What is Know Your Rights?

Every year, tens of thousands of men and women are raped, sexually assaulted, and sexually harassed by active duty servicemembers. Since 2011, Protect Our Defenders has been working hard to reform the military justice system to ensure that victims are protected from their assailants and from retaliation by their chain of command and fellow servicemembers. Over the years, it has become apparent that victims – military and civilian – are not always informed of the rights that are afforded to them. Protect Our Defenders is launching Know Your Rights in order to provide a comprehensive resource to both active duty and civilian victims of military sexual violence, sexual harassment, and retaliation.

How do I know if I have experienced military sexual violence?

Military sexual violence is a term that encompasses any unwanted sexual act that is perpetrated by a member of the U.S. military on another servicemember, dependent, federal employee, or civilian. “Unwanted sexual contact” can include rape, sexual assault, groping, stalking, or the distribution or creation of a recording of a sexual act without consent from both parties.

If you have experienced military sexual violence, harassment, and/or retaliation you are not alone, and you have rights. The military OR civilian authorities can investigate and prosecute crimes that were committed by a servicemember while on active duty. You do not need to be a servicemember in order to report a crime to the military, and thus have the option to do so. Likewise, active duty servicemembers have the right to report a crime to the civilian authorities. Your rights in the military justice system depend on your status:

Why is it important to Know Your Rights?

In Fiscal Year 2019, only 138 offenders were convicted of a nonconsensual sex offense across all five service branches. This translates to an overall conviction rate of 2.4%. Although the military claims that it takes a hard line against sexual violence, victims are not getting the justice they deserve. In the last decade we have made incredible strides in fighting for the rights of military sexual assault victims – including winning a Supreme Court decision that eliminates the statute of limitations for military rape prosecutions. We find that the more informed victims are of their rights, the better equipped they are to ensure that they receive justice.

Protect Our Defenders offers a free Legal Services Program

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What if I was not assaulted by an active duty servicemember or someone who was “on orders” at the time of the assault?

Here at Protect Our Defenders, we provide legal assistance to people who have been sexually assaulted, sexually harassed, or raped by active duty servicemembers. Please see below for a list of resources for those who have been sexually assaulted by a civilian.